Last year, almost 1/3 of the incoming graduate students came directly to SPEA after receiving their bachelor’s degree. Although I am not certain of the numbers, I would assume that the amount this year is either the same or possibly more. For me, there wasn’t really an opportunity to acquire this ‘real-world’ experience that so many of us hear and talk about – I had jumped at the opportunity to start the dual Master’s program the second semester of my senior year. But I knew my concern about having difficulty obtaining a job was still imminent, regardless of my extended graduation date. I was (and still am for the most part) also faced with the complicated decision of what kind of job I would like to pursue after graduation.
I first became interested in the field of agriculture when I took a course my senior year where I learned about various food production and consumption systems and the impacts of land use and social change on these systems. Not only did this course open my eyes to the challenges of this field but it also instilled a drive in me to address those challenges. When I heard that Dow AgroSciences representatives were coming to SPEA to talk with students about the company I eagerly accepted the invitation. Needless to say, I thought I knew what to expect; after all, they were one of the largest agriculture chemical companies in the world. However, I was intrigued by their interest in addressing our questions and concerns as opposed to boasting about their company. I realized from this that the choice between working in the private and the public sector would not be as easy as I once thought.
So I had a new goal in sight: intern with Dow AgroSciences and specifically in an area that would allow me to use my regulatory and policy knowledge that I had gained from SPEA. Well this was in the spring of 2010 so after saying this to people for over a year, I was quite anxious when the time actually came to have my interview. After a terrifying (but obviously successful) interview, I got the call that I had received the internship.
And here I am today; a month in and loving my experience thus far. I have learned a tremendous amount of information about the company and about the field of agriculture and the regulation of pesticides. My main project is to assess the long-term sustainability of Dow’s products which involves using my knowledge of excel and data analysis to provide charts and graphs with the resulting conclusions. My education at SPEA has made this internship experience possible.
And this brings me to the actual point of this blog (I know, a little late): An internship is the best way to gather a greater understanding of potential career paths and will allow you to try out a variety of choices before you have to choose a specific path. I had a lot of uncertainty when deciding between the private and public sectors. I also knew that I would never understand either of them unless I experienced them both. Last year I had an internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and now I am experiencing the private sector at Dow AgroSciences. I have already had two completely different experiences and although I still somewhat uncertain of my future career, I know that this experience this summer will help me come to that conclusion.
So for those of you who may be entering SPEA’s graduate program without this ‘real-world’ experience, I highly recommend that you to find an internship that allows you to try out something you are interested in but are still unsure if it is the right path for you. You’ll never know unless you try it and since you will have that option at SPEA, make the most of it.
I hope you are having an amazing summer!